5 more tips for making following verbal directions easier…

5 more tips for making following verbal directions easier…


There’s so much more than just asking a student to repeat the direction…

Let’s be real, there are many ways to help our students with following verbal directions in classrooms and small groups.  Not one tip will work for everyone, so let’s dive a little deeper and talk about some other ways to help.  Of course, we will include 2 tech resources which can quickly become our student’s favorite ways to practice.

Break it down!

In the flow of the typical day, we might throw out a multi-step direction to our class with the expectation that it will be followed.  For some of our kids, they might only get the first or the last part of what you said.  These are the Primacy (first thing you said) and Recency (last thing you said) effects that we learned about in Psychology 101.  Alright, maybe Psychology 201, but either way, it’s a sure fire way for some of our kids to miss parts of what we asked them to do.

If you see some of your kids get to work after your multi-step direction while others look confused or are looking around to see what their peers are doing, jump in and get them started with the first step or maybe 2.  From there, check in and see if they need any more assistance.  Also, you can pull them aside right after the direction is given and verbally break down the steps.  Don’t forget to ask them to tell you what they are going to do first!

Keep on keeping it fun!

Super Duper Publications has been making speech/language and educational materials for what seems like forever.  They are constantly putting our new materials to stay on top of interests in the field of education.  Many of their apps are extensions of great print productions while also creating new apps that keep my students engaged and learning.

The suite of Hearbuilder products is excellent, and since my school district got us some licenses, we have been able to make headway with some students with listening and language-based challenges.  The Following Directions app is no exception.  Packed with basic directions, temporal directions and conditional directions, this app is loaded with multiple ways to help our students out.


Sequential (or multi-step) directions can be challenging for some of my students.  This part of the app allows kids to run the “Toy Machine” and build toys according to directions. It starts off pretty simple, but then gets complicated with more steps and the requirement that they be in order.  Feedback is immediate for the students as they will see a toy roll out of the machine, or a mixed-up looking item.  My students get a big kick out of it!


Temporal directions work on those “before” and “after” concepts which can be so challenging for our language impaired students and students with multiple languages.  Students get to pack the boxes, and feedback is also immediate as boxes are either packed or the items are returned to the shelf.  These concepts are so ingrained in math word problems, it’s a great activity to get our kids listening skills sharpened so they can do their best in a variety of activities.


Conditional directions is probably the most fun for my kids, and it’s likely due to the reward game at the end.  The kids LOVE driving the truck after it’s loaded!  Conditional directions looks at “if/then” concepts which can also be challenging.  These directions are pervasive in pack-up routines at the end of the day as well as in our math work.

The Following Directions app is part of the Hearbuilder suite which is available at different price levels.  For about 100$, a therapist can manage a caseload of 20 students with full data tracking and the ability to access web-based versions (on any computer that has internet access) or via the iPad apps.  When working on the computer, they work smoothly with the SmartBoard.  I have found it to be indispensable for my school-aged kids!

Is there influence from more than one language?

For some of my students from different ethnic backgrounds, it is imperative that their home and school language be treated with equal weight and respect.  So often, parents will come to me and ask “should we keep speaking in our home language?”  Concerns over “confusing” children are their primary focus, and it is understandable that children should be given every option to learn 2 languages at the same time.  In my school, we are fortunate to have a ENL (English as a new language) teacher available for screening.  I wholeheartedly recommend that all options for screening and testing be explored.  Regardless, non-verbal or visual means to communicate understanding should be available to these students.  If they don’t get it, they should be able to communicate it to their educational team in the easiest manner.

This visual support that I created can be one means to help out with this communication.

Strike a pose!

Modeling is an excellent means to show some students how to complete a complex direction.  It’s great for math, science, and lessons that use technology.  Modeling can be used just about anywhere or anytime for that matter.  Of course, it can be time-consuming, but if you are not pressed for time, it’s incredibly effective! Keep the idea of modeling in your repertoire and you can be sure to get more students to be successful on more difficult topics.

Keep it simple

Similar to breaking down steps, by keeping it simple we are making it easier for our students to be successful.  This idea is self-evident for many experienced educators, but it is also easily forgotten.  Keep in mind the complexity of what you are asking students to do- it might be the one thing that is keeping them from success!

And one more thing…

Another app that practices more simplistic directions is from I Can Do Apps, LLC.  Their Following Directions  app is outstanding when it comes to practicing basic directions with some of my students.  It is quick to set up, requires no log-in, and immediately gives you data to record.  For 5 bucks, you cannot go wrong.


Everything is laid out on the home page- as you can see, it not only targets simple directions such as “touch the___” but also the more complex “before” and “after” concepts.


The pictures are high quality, and you can either use the voice prompt (see the speaker button at the top of the page?) or you can do what I do- just read it aloud.  I like to use my own voice so that I can get some of my students (especially the ones on the Autistic Spectrum) to attend to me.


I also like how the number of pictures increases with the more complex directions.  It adds another level of challenge to make sure my students are showing their best skills.  Overall, this is a high quality app with a great price.  Check out their other apps, too!

But wait, there’s more??

In future posts, I will highlight some more resources that I think are great for targeting following directions skills.  For now, keep in mind the complexity of your directions.  Keep things simple when you can, and break down steps as needed.  Don’t forget the power of modeling, and always be mindful of exposure to more than one language!

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